President of Book Links, Jenny Stubbs, tells us about Book Links and how it can help aspiring authors.

Jenny Stubbs has held the position of President of Book Links from October 2012 – 2017, and from October 2018 on. As an active member of Book Links since its inception, Jenny helped establish the Travelling Suitcase project to meet the needs of regional Queenslanders and set up Write Links to support emerging writers of children’s literature.

Jenny is coordinator of the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network and director of StoryArts Festival Ipswich, a free festival catering for thousands of children every two years.

Jenny is an active member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Qld Branch, has held many roles in that organisation including President.  She is currently the state coordinator of the Readers Cup involving over 650 teams of students competing from across the state, culminating in the state finals in Brisbane at the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Jenny was the recipient of the Johnno Award in 2009 (QWC), the Dame Annabelle Rankin Award for distinguished services to children’s literature in Qld 2009 (CBCA Qld), the Dromkeen Librarian of the Year 2002 (Dromkeen), Australia Day Medal 2007 (Education Queensland) and the International Association of School Librarianship – SIRS Commendation Award 2001.

Who or what inspired you to join/start Book Links?

I was on the CBCA committee that was set up to find ways to celebrate 50 years of CBCA in Qld in 2004. One of the ideas put forward, I think it was me actually, was to establish a children’s literature centre.  I was initially inspired by the Literature Centre in Fremantle which was called at that time The Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre. The wonderful Director of the centre, Lesley Reece had been a presenter at our festival in Ipswich a number of times and I visited the centre in 2002, spending some time staying there and finding out how it operated. The sub-committee eventually set up Book Links as an incorporated body to focus totally on the business of a literature centre. 

What has been your journey up to this point?

Between 2006 and 2014 I travelled to the UK to visit a number of centres based around story, writing, literature and the arts and I attended literature festivals for children and gathered ideas to help with planning for Book Links. It was during this period that I was made aware of that there were no writers groups for creators of children’s books and along with the support of SCBWI, called the first meeting in April 2013. Write Links has been going from strength to strength ever since.

What are you focusing on as an organisation right now?

Book Links does have a strategic plan and continues to provide a program of events and resources that a centre for children would provide.  But without the physical space that we dream of, we cannot deliver as much as the amazing centres I visited in the UK, such as The Seven Stories in Newcastle. In 2019 we hope to add more workshops for children and work collaboratively with other organisations to deliver more programs. We will continue to lobby for the establishment of a centre for children in Qld that allows for programs to be delivered to regional QLD. 

As a child, what was your relationship with books?

I loved books as a child but grew up with limited access. There was no public library in my area and schools did not have libraries, so during my childhood I owned some books of fairy tales and borrowed from the country extension service which delivered books by train to my country town. I also loved to read comics and magazines and visiting school mates to swap with each other was quite common. My mother was a great reader and had shelves of classics inherited from her father. She was a great role model and a great story teller. So although I didn’t have a lot of books, I had a lot of stories from my mother and learned to develop a love of books. 

What is the most important thing about what your organisation does?

I think that currently the most important thing that Book Links does is the Write Links program supporting emerging authors.  I also think our event Romancing the Stars raises awareness of the book creators in Qld.

What are the challenges you face in this industry?

With the decline in the number of teacher-librarians in schools it is difficult to hit the target when promoting resources and events in schools.  The crowded curriculum in schools does not allow for as much use of our Travelling Suitcase resources as we would like. As a not for profit organisation we rely on the time given generously by volunteers. They are a limited resource. Without paid staff to apply for funding and develop programs it is difficult to expand.

What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?

My advice to aspiring authors is to read widely, understand what children are interested in reading, find out what publishers are looking for, learn what you need to do to submit your story or illustrations and like any craft, practice your skills, build writing stamina.  Something as simple as knowing that most picture books have 32 pages including title page and verso seems obvious, but I recently sat with someone who thought she was ready to send something to the publisher and proudly showed me 17 double page spreads, i.e. 34 pages , no title page or verso in the picture! Back to the drawing board for her.

What is your definition of success?

Bums on seats, joy on the faces of children, positive feedback, seeing others succeeding with your help.

What is your ultimate goal for Book Links?

To acquire a world class building designed specifically for children, in which they can explore story in many forms; books, story-telling, illustration, film, puppets, drama, dance,   open to the public as part of cultural tourism and visited by members of the community, schools and tourists.

To be able to deliver programs such as author tours and writing workshops to regional Queensland.

To contribute to the development of the children’s literature industry in Qld.

How can people join?

People can join as an individual, family or corporate member by visiting our website.  Membership fees currently help cover costs of our space in the Queensland Writers Centre where we currently reside, rooms used for meetings and insurance as well as subsidising events, especially for children.

 Contact Book Links

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